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February 2013

Pacifica's Future: The Outdoor Recreation "Industry"

By Dan Underhill, Riptide Correspondent

As long as I have been paying attention, there has been a certain faction in Pacifica that considers ecological and wildlife considerations to be somehow at odds with business and commerce.

Many of these same individuals promote building more housing because of the very short-term boost that gives the economy, and I guess they think that the property taxes will offset the additional burden on city services.

It has been proven again and again that "bedroom community" is NOT an industry. I am a plumbing contractor. I make my living designing, installing, and maintaining plumbing systems. If anyone were going to make money from a period of indiscriminate building, it would be contractors such as myself.

Pacifica needs industry, not more residences. The rights of people who already own property zoned residential should, of course, not have their rights violated. We have many empty storefronts, so we don't really need more commercial buildings, either, until we come up with businesses to put in them.

Pacifica is particularly well situated for tourism, and especially for eco-tourism, and we aren't very well situated for anything else unless some Pacifican has just (I hope) invented the next Gotta-Have-It in their garage and plans to keep their business in town.

The City Council's upcoming appointments to the Open Space Committee are essential to having a City Council and an electorate that are adequately informed on open-space issues. There is a great deal to know about our open spaces and without the counsel of a strong Open Space Committee, we could well be burning our bridges in front of us, and undoing our prospects for the future.

I spoke to council member Mary Ann Nihart about it last week, and she said that the Open Space Committee issue will be addressed in March. She also suggested that there will be some structural changes to the Open Space Committee, having to do with liaison with the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). Here is a link about the impact of parks and open spaces on various economies:

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Pacifica Chamber of Commerce Tax Return: Bad News

By Larry Rosenstein, Riptide Correspondent

To go with Lionel's recent op-ed here on Riptide about the Chamber of Commerce, click the link below for a copy of the chamber's 2010 IRS tax return, the latest available online at Guidestar. (The chamber usually has filed its tax returns in the fall, so the 2011 copy isn't available online yet.) 

The bottom line is that in 2010 the chamber lost $68,451 (Line 18), almost half of its total assets as of the start of 2010. It also had a loss in the previous two years, although it was much smaller: $19,499 in 2009 and $11,747 in 2008. It will be interesting to get the 2011 numbers and see if the losses continue. But if the chamber is still losing that much money, it could explain why it is increasing its fees, although I think that may backfire if a lot of people drop their membership.


Pacifica Chamber of Commerce: "Pay Up or Git Out!"

Analysis and Opinion

By Lionel Emde
Riptide Correspondent

The Pacifica Chamber of Commerce, in a stunning departure from its longtime policy, has decided to exclude non-chamber members from its printed directory. In sending out notices of renewal to members, this change was first on the list:

"ONLY Chamber members whose dues are current will have the opportunity to advertise in our annual keepsake, the 2013-2014 Business Directory."

The policy of inclusion of any business wishing to have a listing or an advertisement in the directory goes back to at least 1980, according to Jean Headley of Headley Office Services, who joined the chamber in that year.

But that's not all, at least in terms of shocking changes for chamber members. Membership rates have skyrocketed, with one member telling this writer of a dues change from $160 last year to $295 this year! Others have reported increases of 50 percent from last year's rates. The notice of increase sent to members has the reassuring question:

"IN 'STICKER SHOCK' OVER YOUR ANNUAL MEMBERSHIP DUES INVOICE? That was never our intention. The good news is we've changed the structure of your annual membership dues by adding more features which increase the value of being a Pacifica Chamber Member."

The notice then goes on to note various technological "improvements" to one's business visibility: (1) six-line listing in the directory, (2) listing in a mobile iPhone app, (3) uploading of photos, video, and customer testimonials to the chamber's website, (4) e-newsletter sent to members, (5) the chamber's employing a PR firm, which will supposedly drive more traffic to one's business website.

The chamber places the collective "value" of these items at $1,000. Pretty reassuring to a struggling local business facing a 50 percent to 100 percent increase in its chamber membership, eh?

The irony of all this is that some businesses have passed this by long ago and already get their new customers online with no assistance from the chamber. This writer's business has gotten almost all new business references from Internet searches,

The chamber directory, which used to be the local bible of buying, has not been the source of much of anything in terms of referrals in recent years. And full disclosure here: I haven't been a chamber member for years, having not seen any good reason to join. 

One of the stated goals of our newly inspired chamber is "Endorsing political action." The chamber has taken some pretty bizarre positions in recent years, including its breathless endorsement of Pacifica's very high garbage collection rates, which are being inflicted upon the smallest commercial base of any city in the county.

How that can be considered "representing the interests of business with government" (the chamber's words) will have to be left to the reader's imagination.

The chamber also has enthusiastically endorsed the proposed six-lane widening of Highway 1 between Vallemar and Rockaway, which would create the only such six-lane stretch of Highway 1 in the state of California.

And then there's the chamber's entry into the local political world. On the invoice for payment by local businesses entering the brave new world of chamber membership is a "voluntary" $39 contribution to something called "BacPac," a political action committee (PAC). 

On the California Secretary of State website, our chamber's PAC is called "Pacifica Chamber Of Commerce Business And Community Political Action Committee (PACPAC). There are no filings or contributions as of yet, and this appears to be new. Whether it's BACPAC or PACPAC, the chamber seeks to extract from members a contribution, as evidenced by the new billing invoice.

Perhaps politics should be left to the people and their government. Or perhaps a business organization such as the chamber of commerce should actually be in touch with its members to know their opinions. It seems that neither one is what's going on at present.

Nerds for Nature

On February 21, grassroots nonprofit Nerds for Nature ( threw a Launch Party, gathering a diverse group of about 100 designers, technologists, scientists, planners, artists, and environmentalists to mingle and brainstorm the role of technology in shaping the future of environmental practice in communities throughout California, beginning with the Bay Area.

The demand for the event speaks to a growing interest in finding new ways to use technology to understand, protect, and revive the natural world around us. The group believes this need can be addressed through appropriate software and hardware solutions that empower citizens with knowledge, in the form of open and accessible data, as well as shared environmental resources and tools to inspire and facilitate meaningful change to fragile ecosystems.

“We are connecting ourselves to do vital work for the future. We will learn together how to create public-facing tools for understanding and protecting our regional systems — such as air, parks, creatures, public health, water systems, waste stream, urban farms and gardens, restoration efforts, oceans, bays, reservoirs,” says cofounder Chach Sikes. “We will do practical work, learning as much as we can, to prepare ourselves to build responsive technologies for climate change, environmental pollution and disasters.”

Like many of the Nerds for Nature organizers, Sikes is a longtime organizer and technologist working at the intersection of environmentalism and technology through projects such as Lemonopoly and Fruit Fence. Those projects use technology to help people connect with the real world around them, and that’s the sweet spot for Nerds for Nature.

“We might actually go learn how to measure a stream, which most of us don't know much about,” says Sikes. “But by learning together, we will start to build our collective abilities and be able to create and share our projects with others. Where we are building things, we want to connect young people, parents, community organizations, cyclists, schools, maker groups and anyone else interested in building things that will really make our environment healthier. If we are doing a project on, for example, air quality, we can organize local workshops where residents in affected neighborhoods can get nerdy with us, by installing sensors and learning together how to monitor our air.”

Cofounder Laci Videmsky adds, “Open government initiatives typically send nerds to city halls. We should send nerds to bureaus of land, water, and energy. These are civic institutions, too!" Nerds for Nature is already collaborating with professionals from public-sector resource agencies as well as environmental nonprofits.

Says cofounder Victoria Bogdan, “The worlds of things like civic technology and conservation are still fairly separate. Our group is seeking to listen to the needs, challenges, and ideas of the environment side and bring them together with the imaginations, capabilities, and innovation of those involved in tech.”

The event was headlined by talks from innovators who are already doing great work bringing technologists and nature lovers together, including Ken-ichi Ueda (creator of; Stanley Jones (Diligent Creative), who helped Oil Change International make energy finance data more accessible; and Carl DiSalvo, in town from the Public Design Workshop at Georgia Tech.

“We’re showcasing some great work that’s already happening,” says Nerds for Nature cofounder Dan Rademacher, longtime environmental journalist and editorial director at Bay Nature Institute. “But there's so much more that can happen when technologists and environmental folks unite around understanding, enjoying, and revitalizing the world around us. We've seen these partnerships grow between technologists and journalists, like with Hacks/Hackers, and between coders and civic leaders, like Code for America. Now it's time for nature!”

Look to (where you can sign up for email announcements!) and @nerdsfornature to see what comes next.

Are Peet's Parents Owl* Killers?

By Jay Bird, Riptide Correspondent

In 2008, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ordered rat poison companies to take their products off store shelves due to unacceptable level of poisoning in pets, wildlife, and even children.

Reckitt Benckiser, the owner of d-CON, openly defied the EPA order. In July 2012, Peet's Coffee & Tea announced that it would be bought by Johan A. Benckiser Investment Group, 10.5 percent owner of Reckitt Benckiser.

Peet's CEO Patrick O'Dea claims that Peet's cannot be held responsible for the past wrongdoings of its new parent company. But Reckitt Benckiser still sells d-CON to anybody, and d-CON still kills thousands of pets and wildlife each year. Death is caused by anticoagulation of the blood: When an animal is found, it is easy to tell cause of death as systems inside are liquified. Eating an animal that has ingested d-CON poisons the eater in the same way. This has a terrible effect on our wildlife—and they cannot of course say or do anything about this. We just see fewer owls, fewer hawks, etc., in our neighborhoods.

Raptors Are the Solution

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Email Peet's CEO Patrick O'Dea and tell him why this should be stopped:

* D-CON also kills hawks, vultures, skunks, foxes, cats, bobcats, pumas, coyotes, fishers, weasels, dogs, and people.

City to Make Pacifica Police Outsourcing Report Public

PRESS RELEASE, February 13, 2012: In July 2012, Management Partners consultants made a verbal presentation to the Pacifica City Council, supported by a PowerPoint presentation, to assess the possibility of contracting police services with the San Mateo County Sheriff or the City of South San Francisco. No document was produced as a result of this presentation. It is the City Council’s opinion that this information should become a public document. The City Council has directed staff to have a written version of the verbal presentation prepared for dissemination. The estimated time for the completion of this report is March 20, 2013. For further information, contact City Manager Steve Rhodes at 650-738-7301.

Senator Leland Yee Assassination Threat Suspect Arrested

SACRAMENTO – Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo) issued the following statement regarding a recent threat made against him in response to his legislative efforts to end gun violence. A CHP investigation has led to the arrest of a Santa Clara County man and the confiscation of bomb-making materials and illegal weapons.
“First, I want to thank the CHP and the various law enforcement agencies who are working on this case. Four weeks ago, I received an email to my Senate account detailing a very explicit threat on my life. The author of the email specifically stated that if I did not cease our legislative efforts to stop gun violence that he would assassinate me in or around the Capitol. He stated that he was a trained sniper and his email detailed certain weapons he possessed. This threat was unlike any other I had ever received. It was not a racist rant on my ethnicity or culture, but instead it was very deliberate and specific. As a psychologist, I was deeply concerned by the calculating nature of this email. My Chief of Staff immediately forwarded the email to the Senate Sergeant at Arms and the CHP to investigate. As you know, law enforcement made an arrest on Tuesday and executed a search warrant of the suspect’s home in which they found illegal weapons and bomb-making materials. I have no other details regarding this case and all such questions should be directed to the CHP. With that said, I want to make it crystal clear – these threats and any others will not deter me and my colleagues from addressing the critical issues surrounding gun violence. This case is very troubling and only further demonstrates the need to address this epidemic. Again, I want to thank the CHP for their swift action and I want to thank my family, staff, and constituents for all their support.”